12 ways to cut your food costs

Avoid waste and save money while you're at it. We talk you through 12 economical ways to organise your kitchen and cut your food costs.

Green piggy bank on calculator

We’re a wasteful nation, with householders throwing away around 7 million tonnes of food and drink a year – that’s 5kg per household, every week. We always try to avoid unnecessary waste in the Good Food Test Kitchen and here’s how we go about it...

Stop wasting food

1. Protect your potatoes 

Boiled potatoes in a bowl with butter

Good storage is everything with potatoes – it can more than double their lifespan. Store in a cool, dark place, ideally between 5C-8C, but not in the fridge. The best place is a cool pantry or shed. Place the potatoes in a paper bag or hessian sack, to allow the moisture to escape, and keep them in the dark, preventing them from sprouting or rotting. They will keep for up to a month.

2. Don't buy bags of salad

These deteriorate very quickly once opened, so buy whole heads of lettuce instead; they’ll last much longer. If you want loose-leaf, opt for watercress, rocket & spinach medleys, which can be whizzed into pesto and frozen at the first sign of wilting.

3. Make dairy last longer

Frozen banana ice lollies with chocolate sauce and sprinkles

Freeze milk that is nearing its use-by date in manageable one-pint portions, then defrost when needed. Grate leftover scraps of cheese into a plastic container (mixed varieties are fine) and freeze. Use straight from the tub for scattering over lasagne or pizza. Mix natural yogurt with crushed berries or mashed bananas, then freeze in ice lolly moulds for a lower-fat alternative to ice cream.

Make these fun frozen banana lollies with the kids.

4. Keep bread better

If your family rarely gets through a whole loaf of bread before it turns mouldy, stash half the loaf in the freezer, in two-slice portions, as soon as you buy it. Bread defrosts in minutes, or pop straight into the toaster if you have a defrost function. Alternatively, stale bread is great for breadcrumbs, bread & butter pudding or a panzanella salad.

5. Use up apples

Apple and blueberry bircher in a small bowl, on a plate

If your apples have that week-old powdery texture, grate into porridge, boil peeled chunks with potato to mash and serve with sausages, or make into apple sauce or compote and stash in the freezer.

Make this apple & blueberry bircher for a healthy breakfast.

Be a savvy shopper

6. Buy whole cuts of meat for sandwiches

You’ll spend way over the odds for packets of pre-sliced ham, chicken or beef. Instead, pick up a joint of gammon, silverside or rump of beef, a whole chicken or a turkey breast. Cook yourself, then slice and freeze in individual portions. Defrost the night before you make your sarnies.

7. Head to the market

Fresh produce at farmer's market

Fruit and veg can be expensive in supermarkets. Instead, visit your local market, where it is often half the price – especially at the end of the day, when the stallholders are anxious to shift it.

8. Visit the bakery

Most supermarket bakeries bake fresh bread in-house every day. They often stock fresh wraps and naan bread, which – aside from tasting better than the long-life ones available with ready-made Mexican and Indian ingredients – are usually much cheaper. If you’re not going to use them all within a few days, stick leftovers in the freezer to have on standby for a curry or fajita night.

9. Don't squander expensive oils

Oilve oil poured into a glass bowl

If the flavour of the oil will be lost in the dish, don’t use expensive olive or rapeseed oil. Fill a glass bottle with regular vegetable oil – which will look much nicer on your kitchen counter – and use this instead.

Get organised in your kitchen

10. Sort out your cupboards

A well-stocked storecupboard will help you to bulk out leftovers for quick weeknight suppers, and save you money. To prevent cans and jars at the back hanging around past their use-by date, stock like they do in the supermarket – bring the oldest items to the front and slip your new ones in the back. Save your best, more expensive oils for salad dressings and drizzling over finished dishes.

11. Empty your freezer

Frozen muffins in freezer bag

Don’t let your freezer become a graveyard of chicken bones and fish fingers. While most items will be safe to eat for a few months, it’s best to use up food while it’s as fresh as possible – or before you completely forget what that brown ice block in the sandwich bag is! Once a month, try to have a week of meals from the freezer to have a good clear-out.

Read our guide for top tips on freezing food.

12. Cut down on ready meals

These are usually expensive, often nutritionally unbalanced, and never as good as homemade. Instead of spending money on one of the most wasted foods in the UK, spend some time at the weekend making a batch of stew, chilli or curry. Freeze in individual portions, ready for when you need a speedy meal. Look out for the freezable symbols on our recipes.

Get ahead for the week with these freezable family recipes.

Read more helpful information on budgeting:

Budgeting hub page
Top 10 budget food buys
5 nights of waste-free family meals
5 nights of budget family suppers for £30
5 of the best budget superfoods
Budget recipes
|How to reduce food waste

How do you cut costs in the kitchen? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments...

Comments, questions and tips

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10th Feb, 2015
i must suggest if you want to reduce your food costs. Than you must check price from other store also and local market or online option also available. which can help you to save more money. Not only food it can be work on other product also. amazon promotion
30th Jan, 2015
Store carrots in a lock and lock filled with water in the fridge, the carrots will keep for weeks and not go spongy and bendy. Change the water once a week.
ScarlettKitsune's picture
7th Jul, 2014
These are great tips... now I just need a bigger freezer! :P
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19th Jul, 2014
Go to discounted section in the supermarket first, get tips on what can freeze be adventurous with what you cook. we have had some strange but interesting combinations!
8th Mar, 2014
If left over portions are too small for adult meals then freeze in small containers. Ideal for small children's portions and you can bulk up with more veg, pasta or rice. You can also serve it up to an adult by using several small portions as a mix and match meal. Another way with these portions is to whiz them up and make into soup.
5th Mar, 2014
Another thing I do to save money whilst cooking is, if I'm making say, a casserole which takes several hours in the oven, I also make a pudding (rice pud, crumble, etc.,) at the same time and also if I have time, do some baking so that the oven is being used efficiently without having to heat it up on several separate occasions. As I work part time, I save any left overs from the night before and have these for my lunch each day which also saves money and can be quickly reheated in the microwave.